ITANAGAR, Aug 5: Finding himself in a barrage of criticism over the demands related to autonomous regions, Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Wednesday broke his silence stating that there should be wide consultation on the issue and that a group of ministers led by Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein and panel of advocates led by Additional Advocate General Kardak Ete would be witnessing the discussion.
However, he did not provide a date for the consultative meet.
“The Mon and Patkai autonomous demand committees should sit with other community-based organizations (CBOs), the intellectuals, and the youth leaders to discuss the autonomous issue in a broader way in the greater interest of the state,” Khandu said.
He further said that accepting a copy of the memorandum from the Mon Autonomous Region Demand Committee (MARDC) was wrongly presented on social media.
“This matter is almost two-decades old. Being a chief minister of this state, it is obvious that people would come to me with representations on their issues,” the chief minister said.
“Every tribe is equal for me. The tribes, or whoever demands autonomy-be it Mon or Patkai- we have to honour them. At the same time, we should also respect the concerns of those opposing their demands,” said Khandu.
“We need to find a logical solution. After coming back from Tawang I have received a memorandum from the Arunachal Indigenous Tribes Forum. I have also communicated to the Mon and Patkai autonomous demand committees that there is stiff opposition from various tribes on their move,” he said.
The chief minister said that the demand committees would place their points and the CBOs would place their arguments over the issue.
“I am optimistic that we would be able to explore the constitutional provisions of tribal identity, customary laws and tribal rights from the discussion,” Khandu said.
Without outlining much on the constitutional provisions, the chief minister said that the Statehood Act of Arunachal Pradesh is defective.
“There is a wrong campaign going around over the autonomous demand. People must understand that Arunachal was initially created with five districts, but today we have 25 districts. That does not mean Arunachal is disintegrating and fragmenting. That is why I am giving a bigger platform to discuss the issue,” Khandu said while responding to a query on whether the demand for autonomy contradicts his pan-Arunachal campaign.
Reacting to the allegation of secretly campaigning at Tawang and endorsing the Mon autonomous demand, Khandu said, “I do not have the habit of doing things in a hush-hush manner. The demand for autonomous region is a large issue; there is nothing to hide. I requested the demand committee to give a press statement as people have the right to know. If I had a hidden agenda, I could have gone secretly to Delhi with the team.”
He said that he brought the matter to public domain so that the issue could be discussed on a larger platform. However, he also said that the people should know the background of the autonomous council demand before discussing on the issue.
Khandu informed that the issue was first brought by the elected representatives of Tawang and West Kameng on 12 August, 2003. Later, the state cabinet decided to move a resolution in the legislative assembly to request the Government of India for inclusion of Arunachal Pradesh in the 6th Schedule of the Constitution on 4 December, 2003.
Then home minister L Wanglat moved the resolution during Gegong Apang’s tenure on 16 February, 2004. He also informed that the then chief minister Nabam Tuki, along with then MP Takam Sanjoy, had assured their support to the demand on 30 October, 2013.
Khandu also informed that delegations of the Mon autonomous region demand committee met then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in 2015 and 2018 and submitted a memorandum for initiating the process of creation of Mon Autonomous Region under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India.